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The Big Q

A dialogue on the big questions college students face. Like The Big Q now on Facebook to stay updated on the latest post and winners.

  •  Emails Exposed

    Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

    The best student comment on "Emails Exposed" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, October 27th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
     
    Robert is on the baseball team at a small college in Texas. He’s a high profile player on the team, and as a result he has a lot of followers on Twitter and a large network on Facebook. For this reason, the members of the athletic board at his college think it’s necessary to monitor his social media accounts. In Texas, there is no law to prevent schools from requiring individuals to give up their personal social media login and password information, so Robert is forced to hand over his social media account information.
     
    University officials say that the intent of monitoring is to identify potential compliance and behavioral issues early on, enabling athletic departments to educate athletes on how to present themselves online. They regularly check what Robert posts and flag certain postings they have issues with.
     
    One day Robert tweets “Skipping class to break bad #schoolsucks #bettercallsaul #breakingbad.” Since Robert publicly admits to skipping class, school officials flag the post and decide to also start monitoring Robert’s email account without informing him.
     
    Since the school provides an email account as a service to its students and faculty, it reserves the right to search its own system’s stored data. According to the college’s student handbook, administrators may access student email accounts in order to safeguard the system or “to ensure compliance with other University rules.” The policy does not mention whether or not account owners have to be notified that their emails are searched.
     
    When searching Robert’s email account, university officials find several questionable emails between Robert and his tutor. It seems that Robert’s tutor has been sending him all answers to homework assignments and quizzes. As a result of the investigation, Robert is placed on athletic probation and his tutor is fired.
     
     
    Should universities be allowed to monitor student email and social media accounts? If so, under what circumstances?
     
    What crosses the line between campus safety and invasion of privacy?
     
    Are university rules regarding email and social media monitoring too vague? If so, how can these rules be changed for more clarity?
     
    Should Robert have been punished for cheating in class if he did not know his email was being monitored? What about his tutor?
     
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by cmm08f available under a Creative Commons license.

     

  •  Selfies

    Monday, Sep. 30, 2013

    The best student comment on "Selfies" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, October 13th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Stacy is a sophomore in college who is addicted to Instagram. She regularly posts multiple photos a day showing her followers what she is up to. Stacy views Instagram as a way to stay connected with her friends. While many of these Instagram photos incorporate amazing sights or delicious-looking baked goods, she also posts a lot of selfies. One day Stacy posts a photo of herself by the pool in her new string bikini. Another day, she takes a picture of herself in a sexy camisole getting ready for bed.

    These photos start to attract a lot of attention from her college peers. On her way to class one day she hears two guys she has never met talking about her as she walks by. She even sees one of her peers looking at one of her Instagram selfies on his phone in class.  

    Stacy’s best friend, Andrea, confronts her about posting these photos. She claims that showing this kind of photo on social media is not only dangerous but also can make guys think of Stacy as a skank. Stacy says she is simply expressing herself through these selfies, and that if people don’t want to see these photos, then they can stop following her on Instagram.

    Is Andrea right to be worried about Stacy? If guys take Stacy’s photos the wrong way, is that her responsibility? What if a man posted a photo of himself shirtless or in a bathing suit? Would that be a problem? If so, why is there a difference in the way we view photos put up by men and women?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Video: It's Your Fault

    Opinion from a Young Teenage Girl

     

    Photo by Paige Worthy available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Outside the Fold

    Monday, Sep. 16, 2013

    The best student comment on "Outside the Fold" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, September 29th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Alexa comes from a close-knit Chinese family. Her parents came to the United States from Beijing in 1981 so that her father could attend college. Alexa was born in California, and her parents chose to remain in the U.S. Although they are comfortable in their adopted homeland, they remain very traditional about certain things. In particular, they expect Alexa to marry a Chinese boy.
     
    Alexa, however, doesn’t see things the same way. When she went away to college, she was open to dating people from every ethnicity. She started seeing Brian, an Irish Catholic guy, two months into their freshman year. Now a junior, Alexa is expecting a visit from her parents, and Brian would like to meet them. 
     
    Should Alexa introduce Brian to her family? Is it racist for Alexa’s parents to oppose interracial relationships?  
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
  •  To Snitch or Not To Snitch?

    Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013

    The best student comment on "To Snitch or Not To Snitch?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, September 15th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Joseph is a collegiate athlete. He used to play three sports in high school: football, basketball, and track. When he came to college, Joseph decided to row crew in order to stay in peak athletic shape. He had never rowed crew before in his life. While many would think that it is a difficult transition for him “on the field,” or in the boat in this case, he is finding it most difficult to transition to life in a college dorm.
     
    Joseph’s crew schedule is such that he has to wake up earlier than the average college student. He often has to be at practice at 6 am. In order to stay alert and perform to the best of his ability, Joseph sleeps early and doesn’t drink alcohol while crew is in season. While he doesn’t have a problem with students drinking alcohol and being drunk in the dorms, he gets annoyed when they are loud and keep him awake at night.
     
    Joseph’s roommate, Greg, doesn’t take part in collegiate athletics. He enjoys staying up late, drinking alcohol socially, and going to parties. As a result, Greg often leaves the room a mess with the smell of alcohol lingering. Greg also tends to wander into the room at late hours and wake Joseph up. Joseph has talked with Greg about trying to stay clean and keeping it down, especially on Friday nights because crew regattas are early on Saturday mornings.
     
    One Friday night, Greg and a few of the other dorm residents are drinking and being loud in the common areas. Joseph can hear them as he tries to sleep to prepare for the regatta in the morning. He sends Greg a text asking him to keep it down, but thirty minutes later they seem to be making even more noise. Joseph calls campus safety and files a noise complaint. As a result, the dorm quiets down but Greg and his friends are caught drinking in the common area and receive fines and community service.
     
    Should Joseph have reported the incident to campus safety? Is it wrong for Joseph to request his dorm mates respect that he has to wake up early to row crew? Does Greg have a right to be upset at his roommate? Do you find that college students are inconsiderate of their surroundings on campus? Do students often treat dorms as a party scene as opposed to a home? 
     
    Useful Resources:
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Photo by Jason Wun available under a Creative Commons license.
  •  Crusading at the Dinner Table

    Monday, Aug. 19, 2013

    The best student comment on "Crusading at the Dinner Table" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, September 1st, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**


    Towards the end of her senior year of high school, Grace volunteered for a local animal rights organization. Although she was always an animal lover, she had never really considered the issue of animals being raised to be eaten. During her time with the organization, she became passionate about animal rights and became a vegetarian. She was also able to convince her parents to become vegetarians.

    Now a new freshman, Grace faces a dilemma. Everyone around her seems to eat meat. Though the dining hall offers plenty of vegetarian options, she is unhappy about the presence of meat as a constant feature among the offerings.

    Grace isn’t able to put aside her feelings about the suffering of animals. Going by her own experience of having her eyes opened to the cause, Grace is convinced that spreading knowledge about the suffering of farm animals is the only way of converting more people into vegetarians.

    On one hand, she feels she has a duty, when sitting at a table with people who are consuming meat, to express her beliefs. On the other hand, she knows that directly confronting people about their choices tends to alienate them. She would like to establish good relationships and friendships with the people around her, but she would also like to express her beliefs and teach people about her cause. Should Grace confront her friends at the dining table?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Stand Up, Speak Out: The College Student's Guide to Activism

    Ethics Guide: Eating Animals

     

    Photo by Ben Isacat available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  An Offhand Remark

    Monday, Aug. 5, 2013

    The best student comment on "An Offhand Remark" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, August 18th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Lindsey and Danielle are new freshman roommates. Although they come from very different backgrounds—Lindsey is from a small town in Minnesota and Danielle is from Los Angeles—they’ve already bonded. The third week of the quarter, Lindsey and Danielle go together to a party. They’re having a great time chatting with some people they’ve just met when Danielle makes a crack about the “chink” who lives on their floor and how she will probably “mess up the curve” in the calculus class they’re taking together because Asians don’t do anything but study. Lindsey is taken aback. She didn’t think Danielle was the type of person who would make such an offensive comment.

    Should Lindsey say something immediately? Should she wait and talk to Danielle in private? Or should she just let the comment go without remarking on it at all?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    One of College's Most Exacting Lessons: Roommates

    College Relationships: Roommate Tips for Dorm Life

    How to Handle a Bad College Roommate

  •  Whose Life is it Anyway?

    Monday, Jul. 22, 2013

    The best student comment on "Whose Life is it Anyway?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, August 4th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

     
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
     
    Robert is a sophomore in college majoring in accounting. He has never truly been interested in accounting, however. In fact, Robert is very passionate about filmmaking. Since his early years, he has known that he wants to become a director. He is only majoring in accounting at his parent’s wishes.
     
    Robert’s parents are paying for his college, and as a result, he finds himself in a very difficult situation. Since his parents are paying for him to be at college, he understands why they should have some say in his major. At the same time, however, Robert believes that majoring in accounting is a huge waste of time for him, because in the future he knows he doesn’t want anything to do with accounting. 
     
    Since Robert is not interested in accounting, his grades have recently suffered. While his parents stress the importance of getting a high GPA, he has been stuck in the 3.2 range throughout college.
     
    Robert has just gotten his grades back for the spring quarter and he got a 3.1. His parents are upset that he was unable to get better grades. They insist that he can do better and that there is no reason why he isn’t doing so.
     
    Robert finally strikes up the courage to tell his parents that he never wants to become an accountant. He tells them that he wants to become a filmmaker. Robert’s parents tell him this is an impractical dream of his. It should be a hobby not a career path. They insist that he stays in accounting and tell him that if he doesn’t start getting better grades his future is in trouble.
     
    Many parents want to be involved in their child’s college education, especially when they are paying the bills. When is this desire to be involved reasonable guidance and when does it become intrusion? If students are 18 and adults, shouldn’t they be given freedom to be responsible for their own actions? Does Robert’s father have a right to feel upset about his low son’s low GPA? Should he be allowed to decide Robert’s major? What should Robert do?

    Useful Resources: 
     

    Choosing a Major in College: Do Parents Get a Say?

  •  Homework or Teamwork?

    Monday, Jul. 8, 2013

    The best student comment on "Homework or Teamwork" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, July 21th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    Kim was a star soccer player in high school and hopes to continue playing in college. The college she will be attending has Division III women’s soccer, and the coach is anxious for Kim to join the team.

    However, her college is also very challenging academically. She’s heard from some people on the team that, especially during the season, it’s better to take easier classes so you can go to practices and games, and also get your work done without stressing. Kim doesn’t feel comfortable following this advice because she really chose her college because of its strong academic reputation. On the other hand, she doesn’t want to settle for intramural soccer, which she thinks won’t allow her to play up to her potential.

    What role should sports play in Kim’s college life?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Grading College Athletes

    College Athletes: Academic Performance: Behind the Line on Grades

     

    Photo by Jeremy Wilburn available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  Home Sweet Home

    Friday, Jun. 21, 2013

    The best student comment on "Home Sweet Home" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, July 7th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

    After a long, tough finals week, Sophia has completed her freshman year of college. She can’t believe how fast the year went. She made many new friends and experienced the freedom of independence, living away from her parents for the first time in her life. Now, it’s summer break, and Sophia is returning home to work for a local restaurant. All she wants to do during break is work, go to the gym, and hang out with her old high school friends.

    Sophia’s parents are very strict and like to know where she is at all times. They also enjoy having her at home to spend time with the family, and stress the importance of academics and getting good grades. In high school, Sophia often had to stay home at nights when her friends were getting together. When Sophia was allowed out, she had to return home before her parents went to bed at midnight.

    Sophia has gotten used to the freedom of college, however. She’s 19 now, after all. She enjoys being spontaneous, making her own choices, not having to report her coordinates to her parents at all times, and staying out late. That being said, she has still been able to maintain over a 3.7 cumulative GPA in her first year at college.

    Several days after returning home for break, Sophia’s best friend from high school decides to host a reunion party. Sophia works from 10am to 4pm at the restaurant, heads to the gym, and makes it home in time for dinner at 6pm.

    At the dinner table, Sophia tells her parents she is going to the reunion party in a couple of hours. While Sophia loves to be spontaneous, her parents love to schedule out their plans well ahead of time. They inform Sophia that they’ve planned a family night and that she needs to be home to spend time with her two younger siblings.

    Conversation turns into argument. Sophia claims she is independent now and can make her own decisions. Her parents state that while she is still living under their roof, she needs to listen to their judgment. They stress they are not being the “fun police,” but are emphasizing family values. If Sophia would have told them ahead of time, they claim they would have let her go. 

    Sophia pretends to go to bed upset and sneaks out to go to the party.

    Should Sophia have snuck out to go to the party? Have you ever snuck out from home? Is Sophia independent? Should she be able to make her own decisions at home? Is it fair for Sophia’s parents to ask her to plan ahead of time, or should she be allowed to continue her spontaneous nature? Is there a point of compromise?

    Useful Resources:

    A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

    Social Intelligence: Returning Home from College for the Summer

     

  •  Congratulations Graduates!

    Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013

     The Big Q sends best wishes to all students who graduated in 2013 and wishes a great summer to everyone who will be returning to school in the fall.  We will be taking a week off, but will be back with more contests and cases soon.